Extended impregnation kraft cooking of softwood : Effects on reject, yield, pulping uniformity, and physical properties

Abstract: Converting wood into paper is a complex process involving many different stages, one of which is pulping. Pulping involves liberating the wood fibres from each other, which can be done either chemically or mechanically. This thesis focuses on the most common chemical pulping method, the kraft cooking process, and especially on a recently developed improvement of the impregnation phase, which is the first part of a kraft cook. Extended impregnation kraft cooking (EIC) technique is demonstrated to be an improvement of the kraft pulping process and provides a way to utilize softwood to a higher degree, at higher pulp yield. We demonstrate that it is possible to produce softwood (Picea abies) kraft pulp using a new cooking technique, resulting in a pulp that can be defibrated without inline refining at as high lignin content as 8% on wood, measured as kappa numbers above 90. Lignin is the wood constituent that holds the wood fibres together in the wood matrix. The new cooking technique uses the differences in reaction rate between the diffusion and consumption of hydroxide ions; it is used to ensure a homogenous impregnation of wood chips at lower impregnation temperatures and longer impregnation times than are generally used in the industry. The applied cooking temperatures are also substantially lower than those used in conventional kraft pulping systems, promoting uniform delignification. This results in a narrower kappa number distribution than in lab-cooked conventional kraft pulp. High-kappa-number pulps were investigated for pulp sheet properties such as tensile strength, tensile stiffness, and compression strength. It was demonstrated that an EIC pulp of kappa number 95 has strength properties comparable to those of a conventional pulp of kappa number 82. Comparing the effects of starch multilayers on conventional and EIC pulps reveals similar effects. The use of the starch multilayer treatment increased the tensile index and decreased the tensile stiffness and short-span compression test (SCT) indices. The EIC technique has also been used to produce a series of bleachable-grade pulps. The results indicate the possibility of increasing the lignin content of the pulp entering the oxygen delignification stage, since the reject content of gently defibered pulp is lower than 0.1% at kappa number 49. In this thesis, we recommend that wood chips be impregnated for 2 h at 110 °C to neutralize acidic compounds in the wood and impregnate the chips with cooking chemicals, and that the ensuing cook be performed at 135–140 °C, depending on the target kappa number. We also recommend increasing the available amounts of cooking chemicals in the impregnation stage by using a higher liquor-to-wood ratio and keeping the alkali profile fairly high in the ensuing cook. This concept will reduce the amount of reject material, increase the pulping uniformity, and increase the selectivity towards lignin degradation in the kraft cook.